5 Essential Business Books on Growth & Strategy in 2018

December is the time of the year when we like to hit the pause button to review and recommend a handful of books you should have on your reading list now and on into 2018. 

2018 best business books on growth and strategyThe general theme for this year’s collection of business bestsellers is ideas and insights around growth and strategy. Each of these worthy tomes—some published in 2017 and others, long-standing classics—are jammed with real-world anecdotes and concepts you can implement at your firms.


Here’s our list of 5 Essential Business Books on Growth & Strategy in 2018

1. If You're in a Dogfight, Become a Cat: Strategies for Long-Term Growth— by Leonard Sherman

2. Lead and Disrupt: How to Solve the Innovator's Dilemma— by Professors Charles O'Reilly and Michael Tushman

3. The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change Into Opportunity and Advantage— by Daniel Burrus

4. Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It— by Jeffrey Eisenberg, Bryan Eisenberg, and Roy Williams.

5. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t— by Jim Collins


1. If You're in a Dogfight, Become a Cat: Strategies for Long-Term Growth

If you're in a dogfight become a cat leonard sherman.jpgThis book made the “top list” of numerous publications and organizations in 2017. Strategy + Business, a PwC publication, named it “the most compelling business book on strategy this year.” Inc. magazine says the book offers a quick master class in recent business history (gurus, concepts, iconic companies) along with its high-level guidance on strategy and product.” It’s true.

The author jammed this treasure chest with gems about companies that achieved profitable growth by seizing on an innovative idea that “solves an important problem or novel solution.”

According to the author and Columbia Business School faculty member, Leonard Sherman, having a big idea like Netflix renting movies and Yellow Tail simplifying wine for traditional non-wine drinkers explains the success of companies that bring a new perspective to a familiar problem.

Key takeaway: The job of innovation and strategic renewal should be in the hands of the CEO, not delegated. Think Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs.


2. Lead and Disrupt: How to Solve the Innovator's Dilemma

Lead and Disrupt Oreilly III and Tushman.jpgIn this 2016 book by authors Charles O’Reilly and Michael Tushman, they observe that big-brand companies have been going out of business with alarming frequency in the past few years. As examples, they cite Blockbuster, RadioShack, and Kodak.

To arrest this trend, the authors suggest companies become ambidextrous. “Firms must remain competitive in their core markets, while also winning in new domains.”

The book outlines approaches that businesses can take to continually grow beyond their initial spark of brilliance—a quandary often referred to as the innovator’s dilemma.

Key takeaway: Business leaders will learn how to improve their companies by focusing on control, efficiency, and incremental change, while (ambidexterity) developing new markets through experimentation and remaining flexible.


3. The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage

The Anticipatory Organization Daniel Burrus.jpgJust published late this year, Daniel Burrus’s book teaches organization leaders how to differentiate “hard trends” from “soft trends,” and create a strategy that accounts for both. Hard trends will happen, while soft trends, might occur.

Digital transformation is the source of most industry trends today, which, according to Mr. Burrus, has divided us into two camps: “The disruptor and the disrupted.”

In this book, he presents a framework and the necessary tools for dealing with digital transformation at the organizational level.

Key takeaway: Executives will learn how to anticipate disruptions and opportunities and solve problems faster while accelerating innovation. Anticipatory organizations learn how to survive and thrive amid chaos.


4. Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It

Be Like Amazon Elsenberg and Williams.jpgIt’s difficult to end a year without at least one book written about Amazon’s success and market dominance. This year’s installment is a brief, but informative and fun read with cogent lessons you can apply to your business. “Be Like Amazon” is written by NY Times bestselling authors Jeffrey Eisenberg, Bryan Eisenberg, and Roy Williams.

The authors share stories about companies such as General Motors, Kodak, and Costco to illustrate valuable lessons entrepreneurs can grasp immediately. Additionally, you’ll read about Amazon’s four pillars of success:

1. Customer centricity
2. Continuous optimization
3. Culture of innovation
4. Corporate agility

Key Takeaway: It’s just as important to work on your business as it is to work in your business.


5. Good to Great

Good to Great Jim Collins.jpgTo be sure, “Good to Great,” is hardly new (2011), but it stands alone as perhaps the decade’s best book on growth and strategy. That’s why we included it on our list.

Author Jim Collins shares his research on how mediocre companies made the leap to elite organizations and maintained high performance for years.

“After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in 15 years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck,” says Mr. Collins.

Key Takeaway: Companies that rollout sweeping change programs and unleash massive restructurings almost always fail to go from good to great. Companies with cultures that embrace entrepreneurship and discipline consistently achieve standout results.


More on Strategy

If you want to receive steady doses of insights around growth and strategy throughout 2018, consider trying out Vistage. Through frequent interactions with peers and fellow CEOs, national speakers and other events, you’ll spend the year moving your business forward, and up. 


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About the author

Gary Teagarden
Vistage Minnesota

Gary is an accomplished copywriter and B2B content marketing strategist. He’s written numerous articles and member stories for Vistage Minnesota since 2012.


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